The Lamb becomes the Shepherd – John 10:22-30 & Revelation 7:9-17

Activity / Meditation

You will needwheel lines

For a floor-sized labyrinth

  • Chalk, rice or tape to mark the walls
  • blue cloth

You can simply print out the labyrinth and use it as is, or use it as a guide to draw your own on larger paper or on the floor. (Start by drawing a spiral, then add the U-turns.)

If you want, you can decorate the labyrinth like a desert landscape. You can add real sand and pebbles for rocks. Colour a piece of foil with blue and green permanent markers and glue it in the centre for a pool of fresh water. Roll the cotton wool ball in your hands to make it smaller and use it as a sheep, representing you, to ‘walk’ the labyrinth.

For a floor-sized labyrinth, use blue cloth at the centre and walk the labyrinth yourself. Many people like to remove their shoes when they walk.

Allow yourself to be guided by the Good Shepherd along the path of the labyrinth to the still waters at the centre. Listen to Psalm 23 as you walk slowly, savouring the stages of the journey.

 

Reflecting

You ever done this? I wrote something. Spell-checked it. Checked it myself. I gave it to a friend to check, and then I checked it again. Sent it off and it came back with typos. Huh?!? I reckon they breed while the document is closed. That’s the only the rational explanation.

The truth is, we read what we think is there. Did you spot the extra ‘the’ above?

jesus face palm verse

It’s the same with listening. What we hear is filtered though what we already think, and it was no different in Jesus’ day. “How long are you going to keep us guessing? If you’re really the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Was it not plain enough already? Had they not seen enough healings, heard enough scripture being fulfilled, tasted enough miraculous food?

You can imagine Jesus’ face-palm.  I think there have been quite a few face-palms throughout his ministry. I think I still cause some now. So how does he answer this latest inane question?

The Father and I are one.”

BOOM!

Well, that certainly shut them up.

 

It sounded weird, even heretical, then and it still sounds weird now if you think about it. How can ‘The Father’ (presumably God) be a bloke with grubby feet who picks his nose? (Oh, come on now. Of course he did!)

Separate, but one. Confused? You will be. Look with me (if you dare) at the Revelation passage. I have no intention of trying to unpack everything – that’s way above my pay-grade – but if you want to dig deeper I’d point you in the direction of my friend Ian Paul’s most excellent and readable commentary. Refs are page numbers in that book, and see extracts below.

 

Remember that Revelation is reflections on a vision. It’s metaphor and meme (yes they had them back then), not literal reality. We’re not anticipating that heaven will actually be populated by twenty-four old guys and four weird talking animals. It’s poetry, not blueprint.

The trouble is, we often don’t get the many OT references that John relies on, so we’re left with pictures that don’t make any sense. It’s like if I describe someone dressed up to the nines as being ‘all Strictly’. If you’re familiar with Strictly Come Dancing you’ll know what I mean. But imagine someone reading that in a thousand years in a different country. They’d wonder what on earth I was on about! Most of Revelation is like that for us (mind you, so are most teenagers’ conversations).

But back to Revelation. Jesus fully human and fully God is one of the topics that Revelation deals with. (45) Understandably. It was a point of contention for early Christians. In this passage, worship is directed to the Lamb and to the one seated on the throne as equals. The throne is the throne of God and the Lamb is at the centre of the throne. John seems to be in no doubt, either here or in his gospel, that they are one and the same. (4, 161)

There are echoes of Palm Sunday in verses 9-10 (John is the one who tells us they waved palm branches then) and links with Psalm 118. We also hear Psalm 23 in the touching account of verse 17, where the care of God’s people segues from God to the Lamb. The Lamb is now the Good Shepherd of John 10, guiding his flock to springs of the water of eternal life (John 4, John 7), and wiping away every tear from their eyes. (Rev 21)

 

Reading Revelation

Some notes from Ian Paul’s book and blog on how to read Revelation – and how not to turn it into a Christian Nostradamus of end-time secret codes.

“We need to attend carefully to what the text actually says; understand what the writer and first audience might have thought it meant in their own context; and from that discern what God through his Spirit might be saying to us.” (51)

“The claim made must fit the data of the text. This might sound like a very obvious principle, but it is in fact amazing how often people claim that a text says something when, on closer examination, the text says nothing of the sort.

The reading must have been a possible meaning for the author of the text and its first readers. … it depends on understanding Scripture as both ‘God-breathed’ and the product of human authorship at the same time. That is, it depends on a specific understanding of Scripture as the inspired writings of particular people…

Any ‘deep’ or ‘hidden’ meaning must cohere with the ‘surface’ meaning of the text. … Whilst Jesus taught in parables as a strategy to challenge his listeners to think again about God and the kingdom, it is a serious Christian conviction that God wants to communicate with us and make things clear, and not play tricks on us and tease us with esoteric codes and hidden meanings. Christianity is not gnostic, and the Bible is not a code book.” (Extract from blog)

 

Reading

John 10:22-30
At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”

Revelation 7:9-17

After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, singing, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?” I said to him, “Sir, you are the one that knows.” Then he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. For this reason they are before the throne of God, and worship him day and night within his temple, and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them. They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

 

References

Ian Paul, ‘Revelation’, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, 2018

Disclaimer

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